Monterey Bay Aquarium lends freezer to help Mee Memorial fight coronavirus – The King City Rustler
KING CITY – The Monterey Bay Aquarium has loaned a freezer capable of reaching subzero temperatures to the Mee Memorial Health System in an effort to help South Monterey County Hospital administer Covid-19 vaccines in the region.
“Although vaccines remain scarce in Monterey County, this is great news,” said Rena Salamacha, CEO of Mee Memorial. “When the state and county release more Pfizer vaccines, this freezer will help expand our ability to inoculate even more people in South County, keeping our communities safe and a priority. “
The freezer had previously been on loan to Natividad Medical Center in Salinas, but it was delivered to Mee Memorial Hospital in King City on February 18 after Natividad was granted a permanent freezer.
“Thanks to Monterey County Supervisor Chris Lopez and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we were able to borrow this freezer, which can support the distribution of the Pfizer vaccine,” said Dr Joshua Deutsch, family physician at Mee Memorial.
Of the two vaccines approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, Mee was only able to transport the Moderna vaccine due to the Pfizer doses requiring storage temperatures of minus 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
“This ultra-low temperature research freezer enables Mee Memorial to store and distribute the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine and will increase its ability to serve families and farm workers,” said Chris Lopez, Monterey County supervisor for District 3. “Many essential workers in the agriculture and food service industries have a high occupational risk of Covid-19 infection and are eager to get vaccinated. This loan will allow Mee Memorial to offer both types of vaccines.
According to Deutsch, Mee’s vaccination program is “going very well.”
“We have vaccinated around 250 people this week,” he said. “In total, besides health workers, a total of 1,500 people have been vaccinated here at Mee Memorial Hospital, but the main limitation has been the availability of vaccines. “
Jonathan Estey, plant operations manager, estimated the freezer to have a maximum capacity of at least 20,000 doses.
“It will probably be more than we can get in, but we have that ability if we need to,” Estey said.
“We won’t be limited by the storage capacity of this,” Deutsch added. “It will be the availability of vaccines that we get from the companies and the state of California. … This will allow us to have both vaccines to better vaccinate this community.
Mee Memorial’s allocation figures remained lower than the county’s three other hospitals, two located in Salinas and one outside of Monterey.
“This has been a limitation for the distribution of the Pfizer vaccine in the country and around the world… especially for rural areas and small community hospitals,” Deutsch said. “Right now, the distribution and access to vaccines is a huge life or death factor that determines who lives and dies from this virus and which communities are served first and who is later online. “
Deutsch noted that if Mee Memorial received more doses in her allowance, the hospital would certainly use them in local immunization efforts.
“If we were to receive 2,000 vaccines tomorrow, we would immunize 2,000 people,” he said. “All the vaccines that have reached us entered an arm that week. We’re good at getting people vaccinated. … The vaccines are coming and this is a big step in the right direction for our community.
The freezer left Natividad with a magnetic plate, which announced that it had held a total of 3,900 doses that were administered from the site. Plans are underway for another such plaque to be added after its visit to the Mee Memorial, so that when it returns to the aquarium in the future, people will be able to see the contribution of the equipment to the fight against the pandemic.
“It is so important to create more equity in the distribution of vaccines to our communities who have suffered disproportionately due to the historic lack of access to health care,” said Barbara Meister, director of public affairs at the ‘Aquarium. “Agricultural workers in particular have yet to receive the necessary volume of vaccination. With the strawberry harvest resuming in March, we are doing everything we can to help farmers get vaccinated. This is the key to keeping our community healthy and to reopening our economy. “